June 9, 2010

June 9, 2010 | Commentary on Political Thought

A Super Tuesday for Tea Party and Women

As the pundits try to read the tea leaves after another Super Tuesday of primaries throughout the nation, one thing is clear -- the Tea Party has proven it's a force to be reckoned with.

In Arkansas, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., an endangered incumbent, won in a close race and proved that incumbents can win if they run a campaign against the establishment. Republican women also scored some big wins and showed that this may be the year of the Republican woman.

Tea Party candidates scored some stunning victories Tuesday. In Nevada, Sharron Angle beat former state senator and Nevada Republican Party chair Sue Lowden and the son of renowned college basketball coach Danny Tarkanian. Angle was not well known in the state until she became the choice of the Tea Party movement of Nevada.

In South Carolina, Nikki Haley came out of obscurity to come within one point of avoiding a runoff against Congressman Gresham Barrett, 49 percent to 22 percent. Haley was a candidate who went from relative unknown to frontrunner in the span of one Sarah Palin endorsement. In these races, the Tea Parties and Palin were the primary factors in turning unfamiliar candidates into household names.

Incumbents can win if they recognize that they need to run as outsiders. Sen. Lincoln squeaked out a victory Tuesday over Lt. Gov. Bill Halter by 52 percent to 48 percent and recognized the anger of voters in her state. Big Labor pumped $10 million into Arkansas to defeat Lincoln and far-left-wing groups targeted her for defeat because of her reluctance to provide rubber-stamp support for the Obama administration. Former President Bill Clinton called her the comeback kid, because Lincoln had been doing so poorly in the polls. This comeback victory for Lincoln may be short-lived, though, because she will retain her status as the most endangered incumbent senator going into the fall.

Victories by some high-profile women have shown that Tuesday was big for women candidates. In California, two women will head the ticket for the Republican Party. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman won the Republican primary for governor and will face former Gov. Jerry Brown. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina won the Republican nomination for Senate and will face Barbara Boxer this fall.

Tuesday showed strong evidence of Tea Party power. And while incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln lived to fight another day, her seat in Arkansas and the Senate Majority Leader's seat in Nevada are shaping up to be the most likely pickups for Republicans this fall.

But don't try to read too much into Tuesday's election results, because there is a long way to go until the first Tuesday in November.

Brian Darling is director of U.S. Senate relations at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Brian Darling Senior Fellow for Government Studies
Government Studies

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